Text: Anton Andres / Photos: Kelvin Christian Go | posted June 16, 2016 15:59
The Gamboas and motoring media through the years
It could be said that one particular motoring show shaped what the industry is now. Motoring Today started airing in 1987 and was the first local automotive show, inspiring a lot of us in the industry to be motoring journalists. For this Father's Day, we spoke to the pioneer of local motoring media, Ray Butch Gamboa and his son, Ray Louis "Wee" Gamboa.
As soon as Sir Butch and Wee finished a day's worth of work, we sat down with them to talk about STV, their triumphs and struggles, and the future. Of course, our first question was, "How did STV begin?"
"Actually, STV (Sunshine Television) started as SVC, Sunshine Ventures Corporation. We started because we were going to get the exclusive contract to air movie trailers for the PBA. I had a former partner there, his name was Tony Sulit, who was handling marketing for the PBA, along with Bobong Velez. Then, Martial Law was declared and when it was declared I was working with ABS-CBN so the next morning, we found out that we had lost our jobs and we parted ways. Mr. Sulit got into the PBA, kept the contract and he said, 'why don't you form a company?' So we did and it went on for a year or so until the end of the revolution and free TV was back," said Butch.
After the revolution, Butch was finally able to pursue a dream he always wanted. Prior to Motoring Today, he produced the coverage for the second grand prix in the country, the Manila Grand Prix which was held in Ortigas. "The only building there was the Ortigas Building. That's where we situated our cameras," he fondly recalled. With the chance of getting into TV, he thought of coming up with a show on motorsports.
Butch adds that they didn't have much difficulty gaining popularity. "We were lucky we were scheduled an hour before the coverage of the PBA, Sunday, 3 PM on Sundays. At the time, a major sponsor of the PBA was Shakey's and the restaurant’s TV sets were on early and showed programs such as Motoring Today."
Another factor that boosted the popularity of the show was the fact that the show was the only one airing Formula One races. At the same time, Motoring Today was also covering local races. The show made it a point to interview as many participants as they could, be it the winners or other drivers. Pocholo Ramirez was on board from the start and the dynamic of the show saw Butch as the broadcaster and Poch as the motorsport analyst. "The rest is history," adds Gamboa.
Eventually, the show included motoring news. Butch realized that the show would not survive on motorsports alone. While Motoring Today brought in a lot of viewers during the early years, it was not pulling in sponsors. Being aired on a Sunday at 3 PM, the show couldn't pull in big names such as Colgate and other consumer items. At the time, the auto industry was starting to grow and eventually the show and the industries mutually supported each other.
"Motoring Today is not there for the business, I just wanted it to survive because I have the passion." Of course, there were struggles as well. During the fourth (or fifth) year of Motoring Today, higher production costs led to cut pay checks and Butch personally bankrolled it just to ensure the show's survival. Fortunately, Motoring Today weathered the storm and STV added two shows to their lineup, namely "Business and Leisure" and "Auto Focus." Being the lone member of the motoring media beat at the time, there was not much difficulty in obtaining demo cars to road test.
Growing up in such an environment, perhaps it was inevitable that Ray Louis would eventually join the family business. Wee had a stint in radio much like his father and for those who don't know, Wee is the brother of Magic 89.9 DJ, Suzy. Formerly a Junior Jock for Magic, Suzy invited Wee to try out being a DJ for the station. Wee describes his relationship with his sister as close but he felt that radio was not for him. In college, Wee took up HRM but eventually shifted to multimedia later on.
He recalled the first launch sir Butch brought him to. "I think it was the Corolla, the Limited Edition," he says. Being the son of a motoring broadcaster, Wee adds, "It didn't take much for him (Butch) to introduce me to cars. It was innate in me." Like father, like son, the passion for motorsports was passed on to Wee.
Butch never forced Wee to enter the industry. When Wee was younger, bonding activities with him included golf and motorsports and the two would go to the golf course and talk racing in between. When asked what Wee's first day on the job was like, Butch said Wee had to feel what the industry was like. It didn't take long for him to learn the ropes of the industry and Butch now calls Wee the ‘heir-apparent’ of STV.
As for Wee, a father himself, he plans to continue the family business in the future with his daughter. He jokingly said that she's starting already, uttering the words "Happy Motoring!", a line Butch usually says to sign off during the show.
With advances in broadcasting, Butch admits that digital media is indeed on the rise and asks help from Wee when it comes to new mediums. Transitioning to online media, Wee says the goal is to differentiate content on TV from online content. Of course, the TV show will continue for many years to come.
Despite the semi-competitive nature of motoring media, many still look up to "Sir Butch" as a father figure in the industry. Instead of seeing other shows as competition, Butch said that he feels more comfortable with other shows around, adding that he sees them as peers instead of isolating themselves. Perhaps the sharing of footage set the tone for helping each other out in the industry. Wee fondly remembers the time he asked help and footage from GMA TurboZone’s Marnie Manicad, during the Chevrolet Spin drive in Bangkok, owing to a faulty camera. Sir Butch and fellow veteran Al Mendoza said that they would love to see the friendly spirit of the motoring beat continue for more years to come. "There are no enemies here because, what's the point?" adds sir Butch.
There are certainly no arguments with "Sir Butch's" advice.